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Janet Zobel, 78, World Traveler

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 17:13

The Star had word this week of the death of Janet Zobel of Amagansett and Greenwich Village, on June 29 at N.Y.U. Medical Center in Manhattan. She was 78 and had been given a diagnosis of primary peritoneal cancer five years ago, although she was in remission until this year.

Ms. Zobel, who never married, was a confirmed world traveler, "making new friends on planes, in airports, and in the jungle," said Dr. Ben Pocock, a neighbor and friend in the city. She traveled alone, "getting off the beaten path and making friends across the planet from Bhutan to South Africa."

She made many trips to Africa -- to Niger, Rwanda, Malawi, Ethiopia, and South Africa -- throughout her life, and "would bring home books, jewelry, and other treasures, making many of her friends' children happy," said Mark Crandall, an Amagansett neighbor and the founder of Hoops 4 Hope, one of a number of charities that she supported. Others included Doctors Without Borders, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Acumen, and the New Israel Fund.

The director of programming at the National Urban League for 40 years and a civil rights activist, Ms. Zobel was a longtime member of the Taoist Tai Chi Society, which has a presence in at least 26 countries. She had "an extensive collection of pop-up books, and loved to give them to children she befriended," recalled Mr. Crandall, his own girls among them.

Ms. Zobel was born in Brooklyn on July 22, 1941, the only child of Morris Zobel and the former Frieda Pomerantz, and grew up in Inwood at the northern tip of Manhattan. She was a graduate of City College of New York.

In addition to her many friends, she leaves a number of descendants of her first cousins, who live in California, Florida, and Canada. Memorial donations have been suggested for Acumen, a charity that has an active presence in Africa, online at, or for any of the other charities she supported.

Ms. Zobel was cremated. There will be a gathering to celebrate and honor her life as soon as her friends can come together. The dispersal of her ashes will be decided then as well.


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